The Strengths of Change

Lifetree News
Creating Prosperity with Harmony
Alice G. Vlietstra, Ph.D.
February, 2010

The Strengths of Change

In This Issue:

1.  Welcome
2.  The Faces of America
3.  Connecting with Strengths
4.  Shifting Your Perspective

1. Welcome

Have you been experiencing the challenges of change? Last month we referred to it as, "The Blessed Unrest." Paul Hawken uses this phrase to describe the
actions of millions of people who are creating a better world. Concerned and
aware, individuals are acting independently, following no one leader, set of
beliefs, or centralized organization. Their impact has been largely hidden,
yet it is becoming a significant source of change.

Actually, the "Blessed Unrest" is not new.  It is at the foundation of our
country and is the basis for expansion and growth. This e-newsletter looks at
the strengths that have been feeding it and how you can apply them to your life.

2. The Faces of America

One way to appreciate the "Blessed Unrest" is to look at history.  When we
understand our history, we better understand ourselves. PBS is currently
showing a series called "Faces of America," developed  by Dr. Henry Louis
Gates Jr. In this series, Dr. Gates explores the ancestry of twelve
celebrities to help us better understand our roots.

Why examine your history? First, America is largely a melting pot. Coming to
the United States as immigrants, many of us have lost touch with our roots.
When we get in touch with our roots, we see ourselves as more connected, not
only with our ancestors, but also globally. It helps us to find our place,
to better understand the impact of world events, and our purpose today. 
Second, history, unexamined, repeats itself. By understanding our past, and
the factors that influenced it, we can choose to create a new path. 
We can look at our lives and create a new story.

Our ancestors left their homeland and families to build a new life in a
foreign land. Why? Religious oppression, poverty, hardship, and war were a
few of the reasons. America brought hope for a new life, equality, freedom,
and a place to express their dreams. It brought with it many trials and
tribulations. Not to be defeated, the unrest led to the development of
strengths of character.

For example, this month, in the USA, we celebrated the birthdays of two
presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, as well as St. Valentine.
George Washington led the American Revolution to gain independence from the
oppression of England; Abraham Lincoln led us through the Civil War toward
greater equality. In celebrating these holidays we honor character strengths
of leadership, courage, and justice in our Presidents. With Valentine's Day
we honor the character strength of love. These virtues continue to inspire
our activities today.

3. Connect with Your Strengths

As I watched the PBS series, I could not help but see how character strengths
connected the family members across the generations. Chef Mario Batali described his Italian mother who made exquisite ravioli with "calves brains, sausage, and Swiss chard." Not quite my taste, but it certainly gave inspiration for the great chef. Yo-Yo Ma, a cellist, was inpsired by the passion of his father,
a violinist. All are connected through the character strength of an appreciation
of beauty and excellence. They honored their parents through the generations
through this strength. Giving and sharing their passions and strengths helped
them reach new levels of success.

Now, think about your own ancestors, what strengths did they exhibit? 
You can continue to be actively connected with them by honoring their
strengths?  Not sure of your strengths?  Take the brief strengths test at It will help you identify the character
strengths you use most frequently.

4. Shifting Your Perspective

As you watch these historical series and reflect on your own roots, there
is a bittersweet element to it. While it is incredibly moving to get in
touch with our past, it also has a sad undertone that reminds us of our
limited time on this planet. We can also see the hard work put in by our
ancestors, and the pain and difficulty in their lives, the fruits of their
work in our lives that they did not get to enjoy.

By contrast, if when you look at history with an appreciation of strengths
and contributions of our ancestors, the picture becomes different. Our
awareness of universal character strengths and virtues has helped us to
move beyond the limitations of place and time to see our history from
the perspective of the evolution of mankind.  You can see the patterns
of pain and stress, the times of “Blessed Unrest,” and how new solutions
evolved to promote the well being of all.  We all have some aspects of
these strengths, so everyone gets to contribute. What I find is most
fascinating is that the actions everyone are significant.  

Take a moment to get in touch with your passions.  Do they reflect a
deeper, more universal strength? Did you see them expressed in your
family?  How did these strengths help your family overcome their
challenges in life?  Can you honor them by using them in your life? 
Strengths bless our unrest. Through these strengths you can contribute
to a better world in a way that goes beyond place and time. They can
give you much joy and happiness.

Warm Regards,

Dr. Alice


Hawken, Paul.  The Blessed Unrest. NY: Penguin, 2007

Peterson, C. &  Seligman, M. Character Strengths and Virtues:
A Handbook and Classification. New York:  Oxford Press, 2004.

Authentic Happiness Website –

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